For more than 60 years, fluoride has been added to Healdsburg's water to fight tooth decay.
But that could end if opponents of fluoridated drinking water convince a majority of voters to stop the practice.
Activists recently filed a notice of intent to begin circulating petitions to put the issue on the ballot.
Healdsburg is the only city in Sonoma County to add the chemical compound to its water. But the Sonoma County Water Agency is studying whether to fluoridate its water, which gets delivered to Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Cotati, Windsor, Sonoma, Valley of the Moon and Marin County.
"I am trying to stop the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors (who oversee the Water Agency) to help them not vote for fluoridation," said Dawna Gallagher Stroeh, who also is spearheading the attempt to end the practice in Healdsburg.
She maintains that the fluoride in water is unsafe and doesn't work.
"Teeth in Healdsburg are no better that teeth in Sonoma County," said Gallagher Stroeh, a former Rohnert Park City Council member.
Healdsburg Mayor Jim Wood, a dentist, disagrees.
"I do believe water fluoridation is a time-proven, research-proven way to reduce cavities in children — no question," he said. "I believe it's effective and very safe."
It was 1952 when Healdsburg voters approved the fluoridation of the town's water, a practice that gained momentum across the country after World War II and has now grown to include water systems serving more than 200 million people.
Gallagher Stroeh said a couple of generations of Healdsburg residents have had no say in the matter and it should be presented to voters again.
She said her "team" should have no problem collecting enough signatures to place it on the ballot, which requires 10 percent of the nearly 6,000 registered voters, according to the city clerk.
One of the proponents of the ballot measure is Healdsburg resident Barbara Wentzel.
She was unaware that Healdsburg adds fluoride to the water when she moved there three years ago. She worries about how it affects the health of her two-year-old grandson who stays with her.
Wentzel, an organic grapegrower, looked into getting a filter to remove the fluoride in her household water, but discovered it would cost $3,500. "I thought the best thing for me to do now is join forces to put it on the ballot, so people can be aware and make the choice," Wentzel said.
The third supporter of the ballot initiative to stop adding fluoride to the drinking supply is Sebastopol dentist Michael Lipelt, who did not immediately return a call Friday.
But advocates for fluoridation say established science supports the practice.
"I hope the citizens realize the public health benefits of this and leave it in the water," said Wood, the mayor.
Councilman Tom Chambers said he would be surprised if voters overturn fluoridation, which has "no deleterious effect as far as I'm concerned."
"There are a lot bigger priorities out there," he said.
Panels of experts from health and scientific fields have provided strong evidence over the years that water fluoridation is safe and effective, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The practice is backed by the U.S Surgeon General, World Health Organization, National Cancer Institute, and American Dental Association, which called water fluoridation "the single most effective public health measure to prevent dental decay."